Tycoon linked to Saddam arrested for hotel fraud

HE WAS a tycoon with a list of worthy things to conserve, including the last deep coal mine in the North of England and Dundee Football Club in the Scottish Premier League. But yesterday, the strange world of Giovanni Di Stefano came crashing to earth as he was arrested in Rome.

The detention by Italian police was not for his commercial dealings with an assortment of dictators and war criminals such as presidents Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic and the latter's psychopathic henchman, Arkan. Instead, Mr Di Stefano ended up behind bars because he was wanted for questioning by Suffolk police.

The Anglo-Italian businessman might wonder at the hubris of it all. Had it not been for the publicity generated by his plan to buy Dundee for pounds 2.4m and Ellington Colliery in Northumberland for pounds 5m, it is unlikely that a warrant for his arrest, issued in 1991 in connection with an alleged deception involving a string of hotels, would have been acted on. But seeing his name in headlines brought back memories for some detectives in East Anglia.

Mr Di Stefano, ensconsed in Belgrade, appeared to have been out of the reach of police in Britain. But then it was reported that he had been holding talks with the National Union of Mineworkers and had made approaches to the Coal Authority with plans to export coal to Yugoslavia and African countries.

Mr Di Stefano was also negotiating with the Marr brothers, who own Dundee Football Club, offering pounds 2.4m for a share of it. He was eventually turned down.

Then police heard he was travelling in Western Europe, and thus coming within the scope of a British warrant. He now faces possible extradition over allegations of fraudulent trading involving five hotels in the Midlands and a company called Sandhurst Assets in 1991.

Mr Di Stefano claims to be long-interested in politics - he said he had donated pounds 30,000 to the Conservative Party. Displaying all the trappings of affluence, he travelled the world to indulge his interest in politics. He has spoken of meeting Presidnet Saddam in Baghdad, and is said to have built up commercial links with the Iraqi leader's son Uday.

He says he is the general sales agent for Iraqi Airways in Yugoslavia. And it was to the former Yugoslavia that he turned in 1991; he was given Serbian citizenship on the personal authorisation of President Milosevic.

Mr Di Stefano subsequently began to describe himself as the spokesman for Arkan, and wrote to Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, during the Kosovo crisis, warning that any attempt to apprehend Arkan, who is wanted for war crimes, would end in a bloodbath.

But yesterday it seemed Mr Di Stefano might have run out of friends in Serbia. Just before his arrest, Nebojsa Smiljanic, claiming to be a spokesman for Arkan, said: "We have nothing to do with him any more."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own